“Who’s going to pay for it?” Steep price tags expected from Illinois Lead legislation

Legislation in Illinois would require the testing of drinking water sources in pre-schools, elementary schools, and daycare centers. (WTHI Photo, Lacey Clifton)
Legislation in Illinois would require the testing of drinking water sources in pre-schools, elementary schools, and daycare centers. (WTHI Photo, Lacey Clifton)

OBLONG, Ill. (WTHI) – An initiative to keep drinking water safe for Illinois’ youth is in the works.

It would require water be lead-tested in all public and private schools, and daycare centers with students through grade five.

Another detail of the proposal is it applies to those entities built before the year 2000.

It would also require parents be notified of the results once testing is completed.

One school that will be affected by the plan is Kid’s Kingdom Pre-School in Oblong.

Drinking water sources at the facility could require lead testing in the coming weeks.

Tina Staley is the owner of Kid’s Kingdom Pre-Schools in Oblong and Newton.

She says, “Just learning about it, at first I think, ‘funding’. Who’s going to pay for it?”

Staley isn’t a stranger to testing for dangerous elements to keep her pre-school open.

She says, “We are required to do radon testing every three years in a child care facility. And it runs us, the first year it was about $970. But now there’s a bigger demand, so they can increase the cost. We just recently paid $1200 dollar to have our facility radon tested.”

Environmental experts estimate testing for lead could range between $500 and $5000 dollars.

That price tag will only be passed on to parents through tuition increases.

Staley says, “It’s hard. It ultimately comes down to families have a choice. Can I pay for and afford this? This is a lot of times 50% of their income goes to child care.”

Staley says a hike in tuition or a one-time fee could lower her attendance.

She says it could be the difference between a pre-school education for these kids or staying home with a baby sitter or older sibling.

Staley adds, “Our plan as time goes is to speak out about it. Make it aware, and let families know. If we charge this, this is why, this is where this goes.”

But even though the legislation could strain parents’ wallets, Staley says safety will always be a priority.

She says, “I do agree that we need to make sure our kids are safe and healthy, no matter where they’re at, or staying, or located, or where they’re going to school at. But you can’t keep pushing for requirements and regulations, and not give people some money to help fund it.”

The legislation has passed both the house and the senate.

Now, it’s just waiting for a signature from Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

Rauner’s administration has said it’s on board with the latest plan after negotiations.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office and the Illinois Environmental Council have pushed for the testing legislation for months.

For more on specifics, and the status of bill SB0550, click here.